Kathy Ballard will be presented the 2011 Houseboater of the Year trophy today at 4 p.m. at the National Houseboat Expo in Louisville, Ky.
In every community, there are members who immediately stand out as exceptional, and houseboaters are no different in that aspect. Some of those individuals may be mechanics who diagnose problems and help with repairs in their spare time; some are event organizers who fill the boating season with plenty to do and fun to be had. Every year, Houseboat magazine selects one of these outstanding members of the houseboating community as our Houseboater of the Year. This year's winner hails from State Dock, on Lake Cumberland, Ky.
Kathy is a busy woman. She is a mother, a wife, an educator, a personal chef, a volunteer, a hostess, and a friend to the boaters on State Dock. She is our first female Houseboater of the Year, but no person, male or female, is more deserving of this award. Her friends say she is cheerful and quiet; she organizes special events and entertains constantly on her beautiful 88-foot Horizon Yachts custom built houseboat named Serenity. She has a great sense of style and designed much of the interior decorating on the boat. Yet what makes her most deserving is her service, and how generous she is with her time and wonderful talents.
"Kathy is great addition to our boating neighborhood," says Terry Jensen. "She is always there to help out with whatever is needed."
"She's a very giving person all the way around," adds Jeanie Durbin. "She entertains nearly every weekend. She'll call around and invite people over. Being a guest on her boat is amazing. She wants to make sure you have the experience of a lifetime every time you stay. It's like going on a vacation at a plush resort and it looks like one too."
When she's on her boat, Kathy also enjoys dancing and working with textiles such as needlecraft and quilting. For her, the Serenity offers just that, a serene and relaxing place for enjoying the company of friends, cooking and entertaining.
Kathy's extensive record begins with her patriotic service to our country and her fellow troops. She is a retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant, the highest rank a non-commissioned officer can attain. She was also the first female Senior Enlisted Advisor to a Major Command, and advised two four-star Generals and ten other general officer center commanders on all issues related to enlisted life. Kathy was also the first enlisted Vice-President for College Relations at the Community College of the Air Force, where she served as director for public affairs, oversaw professional publications, and helped with student out-reach functions for students. In all, she has given over 27 years of her life in service defending our country and freedom. The Air Force Sergeants Association has recognized her service by establishing the Kathy Ballard First Term Airman of the Year award, which is awarded every year.
Although she is originally from Inez, Ky., Kathy has traveled across the country and overseas to expand her knowledge of culinary arts, and in her outstanding formal academic record, she holds several degrees. She has Associate Degrees in Hospitality Management, Baking and Pastry Arts, Culinary Arts, Management and Human Resource Management. She also earned a Bachelor of Science in Management/Human Resource, as well as a Master's in Business Administration. At every level of her education, she has earned Summa cum Laude honors. She was even the top of her class at the Senior NCO Academy, the first woman to graduate as the Honor Graduate.
Kathy is an educator as well. As she is both a general and pastry chef, she works in the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management programs at one of the best schools in the country at Sullivan University in Louisville. She has taught at least eight different subjects on every aspect of the culinary arts, such as: Basic Nutrition, Serv-Safe Sanitation, Baking I, Hospitality Management and Supervision, Purchasing, Food & Beverage Cost Control, and Wine and Spirits. She is passionate about her profession as an educator, and sometimes grades the students' work on the front deck of the Serenity.
Her military service and academic achievements are enough to warrant a nomination as Houseboater of the Year, but her generosity and concern for people is what makes her an absolute shoe-in. She and her husband, Bob, are wonderful entertainers of guests. They consistently hold parties on their boat, even in cold-weather months. She also caters for special events, like weddings, within her boating community.
The annual Susan G. Komen Foundation's Cruisn' for a Cure event, held every summer at State Dock Marina in Jamestown, helps fund breast cancer research. After being a guest one year, Kathy asked the event organizers if she could help. The very next year, she donated a delicious eight-course meal-served with a different wine for each and every course-to the charity and raised $1000. She also volunteered the use of her boat, where the dinner was held.
"My son, daughter-in-law, and a few friends were the lucky bid winners for the dinner last year," says Jensen. "We have dined in some of the finest restaurants in the world, but Kathy's dinner beat them all. With elegant place settings, lighting, eight courses, wine with each course, it was an amazing meal that was served on the party deck of that beautiful boat."
Another meal for the 2010 event raised a staggering $2600. She also prepared gourmet boxed lunches for all the participants, as well as sandwiches for other volunteers. And she helps with other local events, such as the Horizon Yacht's annual fish fry.
She is currently a member of the Board of Directors for the Air Force Enlisted Village in Shalimar, Fla. This non-profit retirement community has over 300 units. The CEO of the AFEV relies on Kathy for valuable advice on issues dealing with hospitality, food preparation, and other organizational aspects of the corporation.
Whatever the future holds for Mrs. Ballard, she is sure to have similar successes. A person who gives so much deserves it.